Cave diving isn’t something you casually do — okay, you could, but we’d recommend against it. In fact the National Speleological Society, the U.S. caving association, strongly encourages cavers not to divulge the location of caves on Websites or by word of mouth. This is due partly to the danger that spelunking risks but also to reduce vandalism and environmental damage.
Because of the hush hush and implied physical challenge, it’s difficult to determine what exactly you’re getting yourself into before you hit the actual site. It’s hard to work on your skills or warm up to the feat before driving in head first.
Dave Jackson solves that problem with CaveSim, which lets prospective cavers get a taste for the sport by providing a virtual indoor cave environment. It’s an interesting way of protecting the fragile nature of caves while bridging the disconnect with potential cavers. Jackson’s device is similar to a rock gym in that it is a controlled simulation that lets climbers try spelunking without buying gear, joining clubs, or paying for tours.
According to the CaveSim website, Jackson came up with the idea after attending a 2008 cave rescue seminar. At the time nothing similar to the CaveSim existed so the conference organizers created a makeshift cave out of furniture and tape. Unfortunately, it created bad habits in the rescue cavers which translated to the real cave that the seminar practiced in later. Parts of the cave were damaged due to errors made by climbers.
It took Jackson two years to create the 48-foot long virtual cave that twists and bends over its 13×18 foot area. CaveSim includes cave-esque feature with built-in electronic sensors that prove feedback on cavers’ performance. When climbing through an actual cave, knocking into formations can be harmful to both you and your surroundings; with the sensor system, CaveSim encourages participants to crawl through as carefully they would during the real thing.
At the moment only Jackson’s original CaveSim exists. Jackson and his wife, Tracy, travel around the country to various caving events with the CaveSim. Currently, the Jackson’s are attempting to get a trailer that they can affix the CaveSim into permanently and making it easier to transport.
The Jacksons are also offering customized cave systems for sale to amusement parks, climbing gyms, and similar businesses. Due to the large size and their limited production capacity, the Jackson’s only offer their services out on a small volume for interested businesses. While the Website does not feature pricing information, we’d imagine this is a “call for details” situation.